Tuesday, October 23, 2012

necessary evil: 18th century undergarments

I had almost made several horrible beginner mistakes the other day. I had my fabric out, I ironed it (and the lining!), and I was all ready to cut into that fabric. I could TASTE success and the project had barely begun. Then I pulled the pattern pieces out. I read the directions. And I said to myself "I should make a mock up."

Nothing seems to kill my drive faster than realizing there's a whole lot more work involved in my project that I want to believe. I have, in the past, cut fashion fabric and sewn pieces together only to realize (in some cases a few days before an event) that I made something too big, or worse, too small.

Not making a mock up, which would cause me to (most likely) cut out the incorrect size, would result in a lot of wasted fabric, time and money. 

Mistake number two: I realized I was basing my size off of my measurements. My natural measurements. Not the measurements I become when in stays. There isn't a huge difference between my pre- and post- stay size, but in such well fitted garments it's pretty important to get that part right.

And so begins the unexciting adventure into undergarments.

There's a lot more involved in costuming than just throwing on a dress. To get the look I want, I have to build from the inside out.

It's the difference between "Marie Antoinette" vs "Marie Antoinette"
Colonial Williamsburg has a very useful/interactive feature that allows you to see all the layers that go into 18th century outfits. American Duchess also has a very useful post about the many layers that go under late 18th century skirts.   
So while making the undergarments isn't going to be as exciting as wearing the finished dress, it's an important first step to get the correct look.
I already have a chemise, stays (that I bought), and one petticoat. I plan to remake my chemise without the fancy neck trim so I'll get to document that here. And from what I can tell, one petticoat just isn't going to cut it. Plus I'll need a bum pad ('cause bigger bum is better!).
Here's the first (and only) chemise I made, using Simplicity's pattern (Simplicity 3635... which doesn't seem to be offered on their site anymore). It's not the best photo, but it is evidence I have sewn something.
Not the greatest amount of progress made, I'll admit. But I haven't set myself back.

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